Christopher H. EliotAssociate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, USA
“Earth in Perspective” 2012. (a short review of Life of Earth by Stanley Rice)
Bioscience 62(1) 93–94.
“The Legend of Order and Chaos: Communities and Early Community Ecology” 2011.
in Philosophy of Ecology, Kevin deLaplante et al., eds. Elsevier BV. pages 49–108.
“Hempel's Provisos and Ceteris Paribus Clauses” 2011.
Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42.
“Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation” 2011.
Philosophy & Theory in Biology 3:1–16. (open-access!)
An essay review of Darwinism and Its Discontents by Michael Ruse, 2009.
Metaphilosophy 40(5): 702–710.
“Method and Metaphysics in Clements's and Gleason's Ecological Explanations”
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38(1): 85–109.
“Chimeras and ‘Human Dignity’” with Josephine Johnston, 2003.
American Journal of Bioethics 3(3): W6–W8.
(a commentary on Jason Robert and Françoise Baylis, “Crossing Species Boundaries”)
One problem in ecology—the branch of biology dealing with the relationships among organisms and their environments—is that some things we want or need to understand have extremely many causes. Why Rusty Blackbirds in the eastern United States have declined 95% in a few decades, and how wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park will fare over the next decade, are questions with causally-complex answers. I have been interested in how scientists offer explanations despite this complexity. The philosophical work lies in characterizing what, in such cases, should count as knowledge and understanding, and specifically as causal explanation.
I believe the structure of causal understanding varies among research fields, and that working with too few models of causal understanding itself has occasionally led to misjudgments of scientific success and failure. My work on early community ecologists, especially Frederic Clements and Henry Gleason, revised the standard textbook caricature of how they understood the causes of vegetation development. Currently I am focused on explanations in recent ecology, especially of community dynamics, and I have a special interest in birds.
Beyond philosophy of science and ecology, I am interested in philosophy of art and environmental aesthetics, environmental philosophy, philosophical questions related to non-human animals, and the history of biology.
I work primarily on questions in philosophy of science, and especially on problems from biology and ecology. Philosophy of science analyzes how science works, why it works, and its difficulties.